Students reacted to the closing of the girls’ restroom on the first floor of the Seaver Academic Center by putting up new posters and using social media to promote women’s empowerment around campus.
The restroom was shut down for several days last week after it was vandalized with purple lipstick with messages such as “Please, love your body. It has the power to create life. How amazing is that?!? You are stunning & sexy & smart. Love yourself. —M”
A sign was placed on the locked restroom door indicating that damage and graffiti that create “additional and unnecessary work to the cleaning crew” were not acceptable.
“In addition to that, if students cannot respect services that our school maintains in good order for them, they should not be allowed to use them,” the post said.
Some students criticized the school’s handling of the situation, saying said the message of the graffiti needed to be heard.
“I thought that the school definitely could have handled it in a different way,” Grace Gerber ’15 said. “The [lip-stick] message is really powerful, but the school chose to shine a negative light on what happened rather than a positive one. By definition, the writing on the stall was vandalism… but the point of writing that message wasn’t to vandalize the school, it was to spread appreciation and respect for ourselves, and we, as teenage girls in today’s society, need to learn that lesson.”
Gerber helped start an Instagram trend where she posted a photo of the restroom’s message.
“It was a quick and efficient way to spread awareness about what happened,” Gerber said. “And a way to spread the actual message that was written.”
Another student, who asked to remain anonymous, said that she was frustrated by the closing of the restroom, not because it was an inconvenience, but because of the school’s response to the message.
“I understand why the school and administration would feel disrespected due to the medium of the message,” she said. “But the message itself was a positive one and an important one at that.”
Last week was also National Eating Disorder Awareness week, she said.
“Although I don’t know who ‘M’ is, I do believe that she had positive intentions, as I feel her message was promoting a positive body image [last] week.”
New posters were put up in restrooms reading, “This is a movement. You cannot stop the people who fight for love. And in this case, it’s self-love…Love yourself, please, because you are brilliant and funny and the world is lucky to have you.”
Assistant to the Head of Upper School Michelle Bracken said that with the exception of head prefect Sarah Winshel ’15 and Chronicle reporters, there have been no students coming to talk to her about the incident.
“The very next day after the online article came out, my son called me from college to talk to me about it,” Bracken said. “So then I started hearing and seeing what was actually written on there so I said I’d love to have a conversation with these kids.”
Although Bracken agrees with the idea of the message, she suggests finding a “different way that we can do that, that’s not going to make somebody have to clean it up.”
“I agree 100 percent with empowering women and the message,” Bracken said. “However, you can’t just go around writing things in lipstick, where other people have to clean up. That sometimes takes away from your message.”
Students are working with the school administration to find another way for students to express themselves with the idea “to recreate a bathroom stall on the quad with the message that was written in Seaver…and have permanent markers so that other students and teachers could add other inspirational messages like that,” Gerber said.
“I appreciate that whoever did it thought to do it not in permanent ink,” Bracken said. “And again, I think the message is great. Nobody’s against empowering women, but at the same time…we have to have a way to do it that isn’t making other people clean up after you.”
A new sign has been posted inside the Seaver restroom reading, “We support your right to express yourself…There are many other ways in which to communicate your thoughts and values, and there are other, more appropriate, spaces in which to write them.”